Jakarta. Whether he's mixing spices in his Kemang kitchen, or shipping a food cart halfway around the world to serve nasi goreng on the freezing streets of Germany, chef Ragil Imam Wibowo is passionate about sharing the flavors of Indonesia.
The celebrated chef, known for his numerous cooking awards and hosting the popular cooking show Makan Besar, has opened the doors at his latest culinary endeavor, a restaurant called Nusa Gastronomy in Kemang, South Jakarta.
"We want to introduce the richness of the ingredients of Indonesia," Ragil told the Jakarta Globe earlier this week. "We want Indonesian ingredients to be known by the world. We try to make traditional food to more contemporary."
The restaurant, located in a renovated Dutch colonial era house, uses local ingredients from across the archipelago. Ragil says he wants to showcase the array of flavors Indonesia has to offer, by combining indigenous tastes with a contemporary fine dining experience.
"People always look outside the country to find great products, but Indonesia has so much to offer," said Ninda Daianti, the restaurant's media and publications project manager. "Here, we think locally. We showcase local products a lot of people don't know about."
With dishes ranging from na-niura – fish made with lime indigenous to North Sumatra – to desserts made with vanilla endemic to Flores Island, Ragil's cuisine shares Indonesian tastes from east to west. His restaurant brings together a variety of the archipelago's dishes and flavors in what he calls "the edible story of Indonesia." Upon delivering each dish, the waiter tells the dish's story and where the ingredients came from.
The restaurant has a set menu, with additional specials when seasonal products are available. This week, chef Ragil featured a dish called ayam jamur kulat pelawan. This traditional chicken dish from Banka Island, highlights the chef's mission to showcase Indonesia's unique flavors and products. It features rare Pelawan mushrooms, which can only be found on Bangka Island during the rainy season, and it can cost up to $200 per kilogram.
Nusa Gastronomy is open from Wednesdays to Sundays for dinner by reservation. Guests can opt for a three-course dinner for Rp 350,000 ($26), or a five-course dinner priced at Rp 500,000.